Get real mileage out of social media

I went out to dinner last week with a brand manager for an international company who is also an entrepreneur. During the meal, we discussed the changing face of brand awareness and the best way to get the word out. She told me that her brand barely spends on traditional media platforms such as newspapers and magazines any more. Instead it relies on word of mouth and social media influencers to create awareness about the latest products or company news.

I could not agree more. Social media and its influencers are becoming the go to for the launch of a new concept or product. My dinner companion told me how they ask regional make-up and cosmetic bloggers to review any new products they launch. “Young women who are from the blogger’s city then visit the brand’s outlet and ask for the product that they saw the blogger use. It’s that effective,” she said.

When I hosted an art exhibition to raise awareness about autism last November, we did not spend a single dirham on traditional media platforms to highlight the event. Instead we approached social media influencers – those who are active and popular on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more – and invited them to be our guests of honour for the charitable cause. In return they highlighted and advertised the event through their platforms. The results were phenomenal. Our exhibition hall was packed with everyone from celebrities to national sports stars, media personalities and even a singer from Kuwait.

Harnessing the reach of social media influencers and bloggers is the newest marketing approach for many brands today. Both international and local companies, and even charity organisations, realise the importance of having local influential partnerships. Here are some pointers on how to get the most out of this new style of marketing:

• Before speaking to an influencer, ensure their followers and views are aligned with your brand and company. Evaluate whether they have the audience that you are targeting.

• Do not approach them with a press release to paste on their blog/social media accounts. Bloggers and influencers are creators of content, and what made many of them famous are their own views. These are what created a bond between them and their followers. You could provide them with some background information to help them when they write about your brand or review your product, but give them the freedom to write about it the way they like. Perhaps you could exchange ideas on what they think are the best ways to promote the idea through their channels. Be open to their suggestions. While you do know your product, they know their audience best.

• If you have an event or launch you want them to cover, make sure to add them to your guest list along with the traditional media and other invitees.

• While bloggers start out with a single platform, many then migrate on to several social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, and the new StoreHouse photo-sharing application. Therefore, do not rely or insist on having your brand/product mentioned on the blog, or you could be missing out on other great opportunities.

• If you are compensating the blogger/influencer for their time and promotion of your product, evaluate what could be the best approach to target an audience across different platforms. A post on Instagram could be concise in text but have a strong visual, providing an opportunity for the user to tag you and his/her followers to then follow your page directly. A post on their blog, on the other hand, could be more detailed. One scenario could be to have a link in their Instagram post, connecting to their webpage where they talk in more detail about your brand. This would then encourage their followers to follow and view your brand’s pages. Users today have a short attention span, so being direct and on point can be effective.

Marketing approaches are ever=changing. “Word of mouth” through social media is now a favoured approach by many brands. However, the right approach is key to getting the right message across and having an effective outcome.

Manar AlHinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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